I got the chance to interview Richard “Rick” Boardman from Stockport band Delphic this morning, and he proved to be a very open and entertaining interviewee. He discussed the band’s origins, learning live tips from Orbital, appearing on Jools Holland, as well as talking about their excellent debut album Acolyte.
When did you guys get together?
We got together at some point in 2008.
What made you draft in a new lead singer? And change your name from Snowfight in the City Centre?
It was mainly me and Mark who were in Snowfight, but there was a load of musicians, too many, and it kind of got a bit out of hand really. Towards the end of it, James [Cook, vocalist] was kinda flirting with the idea of joining our band. One night the three of us were out and we had a conversation, I guess it’s like a dirty affair, and thought “you know what, we could do something more exciting”. Unfortunately for all the other guys in the band, we went off and did something with the three of us and left them behind. In a way we kind of had to escape to do something which was exciting.
Who are your influences?
Our influences are really, really wide-ranging. There’s two kind of sides to it: there’s the songwriting side where there’s people from Burt Bacharach to Radiohead, and Bowie and people who write songs with an interesting harmony and melody; and then on the other side, there’s the dance music side, where we’ve written these songs and we’ve presented them in a dance style. We’re really interested in 90s Euphoric dance music to start off with. That was one of the things that initially inspired us. We were listening to a lot of dance music, and we were interested in the way 90s people like Orbital and Underworld and the Future Sound of London put a lot of soul and emotion into dance music, and all the build-ups and chord sequences they use, they’re really euphoric and emotive rather than cold electro music. We were into that and wanted to push it into the future, so we got into minimal and techno, and recorded the album in Berlin, so all of that feeds into it.
Synths seem to have made a comeback, why do you think that is?
I think everything kinda goes in cycles. It was an answer to the NME guitar revolution, where all the chord sequences were continually ripping off Marquee Moon. It had just got to a point where it had started off exciting, with the Strokes and everything, and other bands like the Killers and Franz Ferdinand, then it progressively gets worse and more watered down as it goes on, people try to imitate those acts, and keeps getting worse until people decide they want to change. I think one of the reasons we were into synths was partly because we were sick to death of indie guitar music, and partly because that was what we had lying around. Adam had a load of old synthesisers lying around in his house for some bizarre reason, he doesn’t even play music. We took them to a nice little cottage in the lake district to write some songs early on. They then defined the music we wrote.
You played some of the big UK festivals last year, did you find this helped expand your fanbase?
Absolutely yeah, it really did. We’d been gigging since early 2009, we started off with a little tour with the Streets and a European tour with Bloc Party. We were trying how to learn how to really push the music out, and we played a couple of really good slots at a couple of festivals, like Reading and Leeds. But I think it wasn’t just the fanbase it helped. We were recording our album at the same time, so it helped the songs, as we were constantly referencing the live sound, and the live sound was growing. We were trying to get some of those things, some of those little live tricks we did back into the record.
As well as Bloc Party and the Streets, you’ve supported Orbital. Is there any dream act you’d love to share a stage with?
There’s a few that I’d love to share a stage with but probably couldn’t. Bjork is my all-time favourite artist, and we all really admire her, but I don’t think I could actually seriously ever be up there with her. But there’s people like Radiohead we’d love to play with, people you could learn things from. Radiohead are one of the most amazing live acts, and needless to say I think it’d be really exciting to play with them. I must put a call into our booking agents!
Did you learn anything from working with Orbital and Bloc Party?
Yeah, we did, definitely. One thing Bloc Party has is a lot of energy on stage and we started off very still, and very much with Kraftwerk in our mind. We just wanted to play our best. But after playing with Bloc Party, and them playing with so much energy on stage, it was hard not for that to seep into our live show. In a live sense, that really came through. Playing with Orbital was great because they do everything live – they use laptops, but they don’t use a backing track. When we were playing with Orbital we were just getting into playing a lot more stuff live, and now all the synths are running live, and a lot of that is influenced by Orbital. So in soundcheck, we’d literally stand behind them on the stage, and look at them with a notebook and just write down what they were doing, just to get ideas of how to play in the synth world.
Then you moved on to your own headline tours, and co-headlining with Northern Ireland’s Two Door Cinema Club, was that a difficult transition?
Not at all, it was just exciting. The Two Door Cinema Club tour was great fun, and we really admire that band on both a musical level and a personal level. We get on with them really well. Then after the album came out we did our own headline tour which was great because we’re in control of the show. We get to decorate it with lights, and how we like, and we can push it that extra bit, that 5 or 10%, really make the most out of it. We can indulge in longer sets and longer mixes between songs, and play around with the mixes, because we kind of mix everything together like a DJ would.
What was it like playing on Later With Jools Holland back in November?
It’s one of those boxes you’re kind of desperate to tick early as a band, and a lot of great bands that have emerged have gone through that. It’s like an institution. We didn’t really sleep for about a week beforehand, we were just terrified that our gear would break down. It wasn’t us being necessarily nervous about being on TV. Playing a lot our synths live and stuff, so we were worried something might blow up or go wrong. But it was fine, it was a really relaxing environment to spend a couple of days down there, and everyone talks you through it. It was quite daunting.
The BBC Sound of 2010 Poll must have been a highlight as well?
In a way, not necessarily. The ultimate highlight for us happened a week later – releasing out debut record. Before that, the BBC came out, and people at our label and in our management like to get excited about that kind of thing. But for us, it wasn’t really a huge deal, we were just desperate to get the album out. And cynically looking at it, it was good, because it exposes us to a lot of people and promotion. It’s a prestigious list, but it’s got out of hand in recent years. This country has a tendency to put unnecessary pressure on people and they can never live up to it, so we kinda just take all that with a pinch of salt really.
Do you find there’s a lot of pressure on you, from lists like this and being hyped as NME’s Next Big Thing?
We would if we were different people, and I don’t know how other people on the list are coping with it, but we don’t take it too seriously. We try not to read too much stuff in the media, and the three of us have a laugh with it, and if we do read anything, we don’t take it seriously, or pay too much attention. I know I sound like a footballer in a post-match interview, like Ryan Giggs, who never says what he means to say, but it genuinely is the truth. We just focus on what we’re doing, and everything else we just shrug it off whether it’s good or bad.
So, do you ever tire of being compared to “this band” or “that band”?
When we started, we thought that we gotta think of a name for what we’re doing, and we called it post-dance. The reason we did that is because we didn’t want to be pigeon-holed or put into certain categories, so you’re desperate to find your own voice. But I also understand because I do it myself, people need to compare you, especially when you’re a new band, so people can understand what type of band you are. I do it myself sometimes, “I’m really into this band, they’re like a cross between this and this”. It just happens, and when someone else says the same thing, it gets repeated over and over again. It’s something that’s happened, but it doesn’t affect what’s going on in the future with Delphic. We’re on a particular path, and we’ll get to the end of that path, regardless of what’s happening around us. We’ve got a goal and we’ll achieve that goal, on album two and three, and nothing that’s sad about us will affect where we’re going.
How would you describe your debut album?
Concisely, I would describe it as a good combination of euphoric and melancholic. We wanted to tap into that Manchester melancholy, and all that euphoric stuff with the fills and the synths. It’s quite an optimistic record. We set out to make an electronic record with soul, and we feel we’ve achieved that – to evoke emotion from what is essentially dance music, and have songs in there as well.
How do you go about writing songs?
It’s a torturous process for us in some ways, but it’s the most exhilarating part of being in a band. Some bands write songs so they can go on tour, some write to produce music and great art, to leave something behind them that they’re proud of. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to write songs. The three of us live together in a flat, we’ve got a little studio up there, and spend a lot of time together, so it’s great. Me and Mark can write there, James and Mark can write there, or James and Me can go up there. Three people can crowd it sometimes, so we consciously only work that way. We build up beats and two people will work on that, and then another two, and finally when it’s built up to about 95%, the whole thing will be augmented by Dan, our drummer, who adds a real kind of organic and live feel to it. It’s quite exciting. That was the process for the first record. I think it’s going to be quite different for the second, because you’re defined by your limitations, i.e. writing in different ways and from different perspectives, and see what comes out. We’ll try consciously to have a slightly different technique next time.
Do you have any input in which songs are chosen as singles?
To be honest, we do have input. We’re quite aware that although the initial ideas are written in a very natural way, and often these ideas come when you’re half asleep or when you can’t quite predict them, but when you’re working on them in the latter stages, you’re very much aware that ‘Doubt’ would be a single, and it probably would be our first single. We knew that ‘Halcyon’ was going to be a single. We knew that ‘Acolyte’, the eight minute instrumental epic wouldn’t be a single. We knew that in the way we had written them. We’re interested in pop music. We listen to Godspeed You Black Emperor, but we’ll also listen to Lady Gaga, and we’ll respect the two equally, and admire them both the same. We will write songs sometimes in a pop inspired way. It’s interesting, but sometimes we’ll write songs in an epic dance way also. We’re aware of it, and luckily we’ve set up our own label and licensed it to the bigger labels. In this way, we’re pretty much in complete control of these decisions. We know to accept people’s advice, but ultimately we have the final say, which is quite liberating, and quite rare for a band in this day and age, in any day and age.
What’s next for Delphic?
This year sees a celebration of the album in touring around the world, which is quite exciting. We’ll get to see a lot of new places. We’ll go to Australia for the first time, and even playing in Ireland for the first time in a week (March 6th), and America for the first time – at the Coachella Festival. And then try to move forward. The reason we’re here is we enjoy being creative, and it’s a weird thing in a band, we now spend a lot of time talking to people or playing gigs or travelling around, and not getting as much chance to creative. So we’re desperate to get back and write new stuff. When we’re on tour we’ll try and write stuff, we’ll take our laptops with us and set up a sort of studio on the bus. It’s finding space to push it forward as soon as we can.
Delphic play the Academy, Dublin on Saturday March 6th. Tickets are on sale now.
Full list of UK & Ireland Dates in March:
04 Middlesbrough – Teeside University
06 Dublin – The Academy
07 Stoke – Sugarmill
09 Northampton – Roadmender
11 Edinburgh – Studio 24
12 Newcastle – Digital
14 Birmingham – O2 Academy
15 London – Heaven
16 Cambridge – Junction
17 Manchester – Sankeys
19 Sheffield – Leadmill
20 Southampton – University